Then during my mission, I never imagined I wouldn't be able to finish my eighteen months. And yet, here I am, at the crossroads again, decisions expanding out in front of me. During my mission, I never imagined I'd be spending my fortieth week in the Missionary Recovery Center. And on my mission, though it was something I feared, it was never part of my plan for me to be sitting in front of the Area Medical Assistant with him telling me that returning home to receive proper medical care is the best and safest possible option. But here I am.
I am officially coming home, everyone. The pain in my back makes it hard for me to walk, stand, or even sit for long periods of time. I understand the decision to release me - I know I cannot help the work if I'm constantly having to stay home because of pain. It isn't fair to my companion or my area. And like I said in my last email, I'm okay. I'd be lying to say that I'm not disappointed or tempted to be discouraged. After all, leaving my mission will be one of the hardest things I've ever done. I'm terrified to leave, to come back to the world, especially when it feels so premature. In my lowest point last week, I said in slight bitterness that going home wasn't part of the plan. I was meant to serve a mission, I reasoned, so in my process of thought it was failure to return early - an unwanted detour to my life. Then my companion looked at me and told me, "Sister Green, going home early wasn't your plan. But it's His plan."
I've thought about that many times this week in the MRC. It wasn't my plan to serve a mission in the first place either, but I did. So though it isn't my plan to return home early, maybe it's a higher plan. A better plan. I recently read a story about thinking of life as a tandem bike ride, and how at first you were steering, but eventually, you and God switch places. And the Lord is just taking a million detours, and He's climbing mountains, and taking this bike through rivers and valleys, and you're just in back thinking "What the heck are you doing? Where are you taking me?" Because you just wanted to get to point A to point B the fastest you can and now, suddenly you're flying through the underbrush and just climbing steep cliffs. But you also pass by gorgeous scenes and you just learn that the hard stuff is worth it to see the beauty. And sooner or later, you start to enjoy this bike ride a lot more when God is the one steering, and He's always right there with you, just reminding you to keep pedaling.
This story was timely as I really reflected that though I might have had a set "plan" for my life, it isn't going to work out if I'm just really stubborn and unwilling to change based on what God has in store for me. My life without the mission would be a lesser life than the life and experience I have now. Perhaps I've learned the lessons I was meant to out here, and now my life needs to continue again at home. Maybe my lesson is there now. Maybe my lesson is to take the things I know and put them to use in the real world. It'll be the hardest change I've ever done, but I know that it's supposed to happen. So I'm okay. I'll be fine. Better than fine. I'll be following this crazy path in front of me with faith.
The MRC is lovely. Sort of like a stress-free environment for broken missionaries. We're just a small little family of ten missionaries that take care of each other and are taken care of by Elder and Sister Kasteler, also known as the "K's". Sister K is a sweetie who just has become the mother of this little group. We have a glorious darling of a cook named Divine, who lives up to her name. Even though all of us are in pain, we feel so comfortable here, being together with friends as we all try to make sense of what's happening to us. Some of us go home, some go back to the field.
I had just been told, or shortly after I was told about my soon, sure departure, when I was talking to Sister Carly, a senior missionary who was very sweet to me. Though I was still trying to sort through the proper emotions to have in this situation, she comforted me and told me that I don't need to freak out. On the contrary, she said, God has a plan for each of us. He sends His missionaries out to the field to fulfill their purpose, but also to learn a few lessons. She reminded me that the Area Presidency would not send me home if they felt I still had work to do. She reminded me that I was part of the 2% of youth in the world that actually go on missions in the first place. She told me that even though I wasn't doing the whole eighteen months, that just meant that I learned the lessons I was meant to, and that God has a new mission for me back home. Though I may be returning early, she said that the Lord was proud of me for being part of that small percentage who have a desire to serve.
This reminded me of the Robert Frost poem, "Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood". Of course, you know the punch line of that one. I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. Nothing could be more accurate for me. Though in my life before my mission, my options were like crossroads, endless choices expanding and resulting in different destinations. Crossroads mind you. Unlike Frost, I feel like my options are a little more than just two roads. So anyway, back to my crossroads. I chose the one less traveled by, and I will be grateful for that decision for the rest of my life, because truly it has made all the difference. And because of that one decision, I've changed for the better. And now I'm just at the crossroads again, just with very different options and very different results. I'm apprehensive of course, but I just have to keep pedaling.
I know everything will work out. My testimony is only getting stronger through this. I know the gospel is true, I know The Book of Mormon is the word of God, I know Thomas S. Monson is the true and living prophet on the earth today. And I know that absolutely nothing in my life will bring me more lasting joy than serving in this church with all my heart, might, mind, and strength in any way that I can, even if it isn't here in the Philippines as a full-time missionary. I'm not stopping my work just because the plan changed. I am yet strong! Give me one more mountain!
I'll see you in a week or so, everyone. Can't wait for your smiles, hugs, and of course some yummy treats and heating pads for my back wouldn't go amiss either...haha jokelang!
Mahal ko kayo!